New Authors & Publishers?

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I found the first interview with Bob Stein, “Mao, King Kong, and the Future of the Book”, extremely interesting. Today, publishing companies are mostly concerned with transforming printed text to the screen. E-books (largely) fall into this category – that they have simply been transported from their text origins. When Bob Stein began working with HyperCard Stacks, he even thought “it was desperately important that it be just the text on the page.” (Mao…) I believe that this shows that there has been and still is a strong emphasis on the form and distribution of digital texts. I believe a lot of companies are concerned with attracting readers to their specific distribution. They want readers to find and buy their books from them and then access their devices to read it. This is an issue that I believe will always be in motion. But the real question is – is how moving books to digital forms changes the way they are written and made?

In the Colloquy interview, Bob Stein mentions that authors could “function as very knowledgeable moderators of an ongoing discussion.” Books might be written initially or started individually but by the critiques, edits, and suggestions, books can evolve and change. Authors might be able to take those suggestions and craft the work differently. Whether or not this will be good or bad for books, will remain to be seen but this new networking capability should be considered. I personally think this could work for some works but not for others. In the case of novels, I think it might degrade the necessary talent for one to be an author. If anyone can receive help with edits and receive suggestions through a constant network, their skill, creativeness, and aptitude will be enhanced by others. This could result in many people becoming authors, and, really, no one becoming authors.

That dream of “making a living” as an author could fade away. Everyone will have produced a work, or perhaps, collaborated with others. This open-source approach could start to take some of the money out of the system. But Stein was also focused with how e-books were made, specifically how individuals could make them. He wanted people who didn’t know how to program to be able to publish their own e-books. His versions of HyperCard and Voyager tool kits let high school teachers produce e-books. I think this is revolutionizing how e-books are made. While publishing companies might still be needed on a distribution front, their needs to “create” a book could dwindle as well. The current emphasis on e-books’ form and distribution is important but I also believe it is important to realize the impact that these new modes of writing and publishing could have. Standard definitions of what an author is and what a publisher does, could and is drastically changing.



Will's picture


I don't see the traditional author fading away too quickly. I've mentioned this in another response, but perhaps (at least for a while) there will be two kinds of authors on different paths that may or may not occasionally intersect. The traditional, linear author may develop better ways to network with the production of their story, but will continue to write in mostly the same way. Authors as curators will not be as concerned with creation of their own work, but bringing together other authors' work (which could include the traditional author).

laura8's picture

I agree with you that there

I agree with you that there will probably be two kinds of authors for awhile as the technology develops. When I wrote my post above, I think I was looking far into the future. But I like the idea of authors as curators in regards to textbooks, articles, really any academic or educational material. I do hope though that the linear author remains in the novel spectrum though, if only to keep alive the dream that people can make a living through writing stories.

Abby's picture

The Bottom Line

Will publishers allow the money to be taken out of the system? Not without a fight. They've set up the system to monetize books. I see them trying to force e-books into a similar pattern. Will publishers be able to find a profitable way to allow authors to become "knowledgeable moderators of an ongoing discussion?" Or will the publisher try to become that moderator?